Veteran's Day just another day of the week

Veteran's Day is different in Platte County

Maybe it’s just Platte County.  Perhaps it’s just a Wyoming thing.

The things we do here, they don’t do everywhere.

Oh, someone may have put an announcement of well-wishing in a paper… in another place. A patronizing “thank you for your service,” comment might have been printed out, but that is as far as it goes.

To many people in many places in this country, the day comes and goes without much fanfare or ado. It’s white noise on the evening news as you scroll through your phone. People listen to it, but they don’t hear it.

It comes every year on Nov. 11. It became a national holiday in 1938. The day to celebrate our veterans and thank them for their service.

According to History.com, “Veterans Day occurs on Nov. 11 every year in the United States in honor of the ‘11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month’ of 1918 that signaled the end of World War I, known as Armistice Day. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.”

If you’ve ever lived in one of those other places that recognizes it, but doesn’t celebrate it, you know what that is like. People complaining because there is no mail that day. Most not knowing what it really means. Flags are just cheap symbols to those who have never been touched by war. It is unsettling to see someone who can kneel at our anthem or turn away and go to a phone screen when a pledge is being recited.

Perhaps we have generations now that have not been touched by war or set free by sacrifice. Their hearts are not as invested as those who have had to sit in a funeral or listen to a comrade describe a soldier in pain as he took last gasps. Or spoke through pierced lips – final words.

To another generation, they were born into conflict. Some watched siblings, parents, and their own children come home draped in an American flag. Some still take trips to VA hospitals and can’t figure out how they have feeling in their feet when those feet were amputated on a battlefield 40 years ago. Some were witnesses to those things firsthand. Those people know in their hearts the significance of 11/11.

Few are those left in America that remember what it means to put a star in your window because there is a son on a battlefield somewhere. In the middle of war, they talk about practicing black-outs, having air raid sirens go off and remembering walking down a street at night and hearing the loud inconsolable cries of prayers from a mother and father who had been informed their son or daughter was missing in action, taken prisoner, or had died.

We must be from an older community. An older county. Because there are those here who remember. They still get tears in their eyes when the National Anthem is played. They still teach their children what it all means.

We have kindergarten kids changing the color of their T-shirts to match the colors of a flag. We have students interviewing veterans and not only getting to know them, but learning about them personally so they can introduce them to their generation. We have crowds of people that wept openly when an elementary choir sang the words adapted to the bugle hymn “taps.”  

“Day is done, Gone the sun. From the lake, From the hill, From the sky.
All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.”

Families flocked to the Veteran’s lunches this year. Programs were not just “called in” but were heartfelt. Widows of veterans in nursing homes wept as they remembered, not the body coming home from the battle in a box… in pieces… but they remember the last time they saw them alive. The last words they had spoken. The tears of pain in their eyes as they left everything they cherished to protect and preserve everything they loved.

Watching the kids of our community. They get it. So far removed from war and yet, they get it. There is a respect that will take them a long way in this life. They can stay and love the beauty that their grandfather saw because there IS no greater love than the one who laid down his life down for a friend.

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